More than one in five college students are parents, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). If you’re a future or current parent who’s planning for college, it’s important to fully understand how life could be if you choose to raise a child while pursuing a diploma. This guide for pregnant and parenting college students includes information about balancing school and home life, potential financial aid, university resources, and more.
Pregnant and Parenting College Student Rights
Whether you planned to become a parent while in college or not, you should be protected against discrimination.
Title IX Basics
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”), 20 U.S.C. §1681 et seq., is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex — including pregnancy and parental status — in educational programs and activities.
One of the most helpful clauses in this law is its protection against discrimination. Knowing that pregnancy and parenting are both already challenging enough, the occurrence of harassment can only lead to more difficulties.
Harassment must not be taken lightly, as it is associated with an increased risk of diminished self-esteem, self-confidence, psychological well-being, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. That is why it is important to ensure that all forms of harassment, light or severe, must be dealt with accordingly. As stipulated in Title IX, making sexual comments or jokes about your pregnancy, calling you names with sexual connotations, spreading rumors about your sexual activity, and making sexual propositions or gestures are all punishable acts.
If harassment happens because of your pregnancy or parental status, the best course of action would be to seek help from the Title IX Coordinator in your institution. Do not hesitate to air your grievances, as the law mandates that your voice should be heard. If you dismiss experiences of harassment, it will only intensify both in number of occurrences and nature as time passes.
Aside from protection against harassment, Title IX also provides pregnant students with details regarding their rights. A pregnant student must be allowed to participate in classes and extracurricular activities, whether in sports, student leadership, honor societies, school clubs, and so on. Aside from that, pregnant students must also be allowed to choose whether they want to participate in special instructional programs or classes for pregnant students. However, the school cannot pressure you to attend these courses. This clause is helpful as it prevents a pregnant student from being an outcast in the school.
In addition, the law also stipulates several medical-related provisions for pregnant students. First, they must be excused from class for as long as their doctor deems necessary. Furthermore, they must be allowed to return to their previous academic and extracurricular status before their medical leave begins. In addition, they must also be given ample consideration, especially in terms of how they can make up for their absences. These provisions serve as a great safety net for those who may struggle to return to class after having a child.
Financial Aid Opportunities
Financial capability is something that differs from one pregnant college student to another. One pregnant undergraduate may have a good sum of money prepared to finance her education, or maybe she is well supported by her spouse or parents financially. But some may be juggling a job, parenting, and attending school all simultaneously. In fact, this is often the case — half of the student parents work full-time.
Unfortunately, government data shows that over 88 percent of student parents have incomes at or below the poverty level. This pregnancy guide explores various financial perspectives so that you will know your options well. Student parents need to gain financial support, including for childcare, but only about 15 percent of students indicate receiving childcare subsidies.
Scholarships and Grants
Pregnancy, in itself, may end up being quite expensive. That is why you may need to find a financial source that can cover your educational expenses. Here is a list of scholarships and organizations which may be helpful:
- Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG)
- Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund
- Emerge Scholarship Fund
- Federal Pell Grants
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
- Jeannette Rankin Foundation Women’s Scholarship
- Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation
- P.E.O. Sisterhood
- Society of Women Engineers Scholarships
- Soroptimist Live Your Dream Awards
- Talbots Women’s Scholarship Fund
- The American Association of University Women (AAUW) Grants and Fellowships
- The United Negro College Fund (UNCF)
- WID Scholar
- Women’s Independence Scholarship Program
Other Financial Aid Options
You also have access to other financial aid options that can assist you while you’re juggling college and taking care of yourself and your baby. These include the following:
- Applying for government assistance, such as Women, Infants, and Children (WIC),Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Medicaid.
- Fundraising and crowdfunding through Gofundme or similar online fundraising platforms.
- Looking for organizations that help pregnant women, such as Every Mother Counts, Circle of Health International, and March of Dimes.
Tips for Pregnant College Students
No pregnancy guide or parenting guide would be complete without tips to make you more capable of taking control of the situation:
1. Managing schedules is the key. In a study by Urban Institute on supporting parents who work and go to school, they have recommended that student parents need assistance navigating complex schedules. Being a parent is always a full-time job; that is why it always ends up being on top of the priorities list. The problem, though, is that work and studying cannot be simply discarded so that you can focus solely on parenting. Low-income students who are employed are commonly overwhelmed by this dilemma, thus choosing to quit school.
Another factor that hinders them from focusing on going to school is that most student parents have children under age six. A possible solution to this is through childcare referral and counseling support provided by community agencies. If student parents can benefit from quality childcare, the students can attend to their own academic needs. That is why it is best to look around your community to see if there are available childcare facilities nearby or if the local government offers help in looking after your child.
Another great way to manage your time is by inquiring if special instructional programs or classes are available for pregnant students. These may be offered in an online environment, a great option for eliminating the need to travel from home to school. Being a parent may be on top of the priorities list, but studying would not work out well if left as the last priority.
2. Comfort above all. Pregnancy introduces many issues related to mobility and maneuvering. Therefore, it is best to make the most out of the Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which states that you are given reasonable adjustments, like a larger desk, elevator access, or allowing you to make frequent trips to the restroom when necessary, because of your pregnancy. This privilege may seem simple, but it helps improve your quality of life inside the school. These minor requestable adjustments, when added up, can aid in making you feel more comfortable. Thus, you can focus more on studying without anxiety.
3. Ask for help. Pregnancy while in college is not easy. As mentioned in this pregnancy guide, many challenges may arise. That is why it is best not to fight this battle alone, so do seek help.
If finances trouble you, you can always reach out to the various organizations which offer financial aid and scholarship grants to pregnant college students. There is no shame in relying on others if you can’t carry the burden alone.
On the other hand, if things bother you at school, do not hesitate to contact the Title IX coordinator assigned to your institution. Report all instances of harassment to your coordinator. Also, if you need to talk to someone, reach out to local support groups. For instance, if you are in Denver, contact YouHaveAlternatives. You may also call 1-800-421-3481 or 1-800-877-8339 (TDD) to ask for help from the people behind Title IX.
4. Knowledge is power. Whether it is your first time undergoing pregnancy while in college or not, there will always be information that can help you. Attending conferences, seminars, and consultations may further increase your repertoire of knowledge in line with child-rearing, scheduling your subjects, dealing with classmates, and many more. Reading books, magazines, and online pregnancy guides or articles like this one during your spare time may also prove useful.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for Pregnant and Parenting College Students
1. What is the telltale sign that my school is violating my rights?
Title IX is all about helping pregnant and parenting students from being discriminated against. It emphasizes that schools must offer pregnant students the same benefits provided to students with temporary illnesses or injuries. If you feel like the school is belittling the troubles of pregnancy and considering it a lesser problem than temporary illnesses or injuries, it would be time to let the proper authorities know.
2. Can my professors or school officials tell me to drop out or change my educational plans because I am pregnant or about to give birth?
Pregnancy or parenthood should never be a reason to compromise your education. Title IX protects you from being forced to be limited because of your situation. Therefore, no one can tell or force you to attend a different program or restrict you from participating in extracurricular activities. Furthermore, you are also allowed to attend your internships, labs, research assistantships, career rotations, and other elements of your program. You must be free to enjoy your full experience in the institution, and it will be only you who can decide whether you need to hit the brakes.
3. When should I return to school after giving birth? Will it affect my grades if I decide not to go back immediately?
Pregnant students may be excused from their classes because of labor, delivery, recovery, and prenatal appointments. After giving birth, it is up to you and your doctor how long you would need to be out from your classes. Your academic rating must not be affected by your absences. If a professor gives credits for attendance, you must be given a chance to earn back those “points.” In addition, the school must provide you with special academic services like tutoring if students with other medical conditions also receive such.
4. I feel like I can already attend my classes a day after giving birth, but my school says that I should take more time off. What should I do?
Only you and your doctor can decide whether it is time for you to go back to school. Therefore, your institution must accept your decision. If your reason for wanting to go back to school immediately is so that you can avoid falling too far behind, then your school must respect your choice. Also, you are not required to present a doctor’s note if students experiencing other medical conditions are not mandated to provide such.
5. I really need childcare while I am attending my classes. Is my school required to provide me with such?
Although educational institutions are recommended to provide you with childcare, the U.S. Department of Education cannot mandate them. It is best to explore your options by looking into the local childcare services offered by the government. If your finances aren’t looking too good, try applying for the different financial aid opportunities listed in this article.
If you wish to learn more about the topics presented in this pregnancy guide for college students, click these links below:
- Title IX: Details of Title IX.
- U.S. Department of Education: The website lists the different student loans and grants that may be available for you.
- Supporting the Academic Success of Pregnant and Parenting Students: Read up on how the U.S. Department of Education supports the academic success of pregnant and parenting students.
- Pregnant & Parenting Student-athletes: If you are a student-athlete, check out the provisions mentioned on the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) website.
- National Women’s Law Center: Get in-depth information from the National Women’s Law Center.